Multicultural Worship Planning
By Jason Decena As more and more churches are being proactive and intentional to make their churches multicultural, planning meaningful worship can be a new and unforeseen challenge. At New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, Maryland, we enjoy the blessing of a truly diverse congregation with over 40 nationalities represented with no dominant culture. Understandably, along with a diversity of culture, comes a diversity of worship needs (and wants, of course). Here are a few tips to consider when moving toward multicultural worship:
1. Clarify the bigger mission
Our ministry’s mission statement is: “New Hope’s Worship Ministry exists to help people connect with God.” The power of this statement is that it becomes a filter for decisions that you and other leaders will make. This has helped us refine how often we introduce new music, which songs we pick to introduce and play from week to week, and the congregation-friendly keys we select. Everyone knows that the music serves the broader goal of speaking into the life of the church, either in that specific moment or what we feel like God might be calling us to. This helps us get beyond music style and really make the conversation about worship.
2. CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) to Gospel
Let’s talk a bit about style. It tends to be easier to convert a CCM song to have a convincing gospel sound rather than the other direction. This has to do with the some of the musical nuances of transitional chords and the distinct sound of recognizably gospel chords. Trying to convert gospel songs to CCM tends not to work because a CCM sound tends to compress gospel chords to the point of oversimplification that dilutes the distinctiveness of the chords you’re expecting to hear.
3. Technical skill is crucial
When leading worship, two skills are of paramount importance: spiritual integrity and technical musical skill. Authentic worship can’t be faked well. But for true worship to occur, these two ingredients are non-negotiable. When considering multicultural worship, skill is crucial. Nothing sounds worse than music that is played in an unconvincing style. Put the work in to be able to play in the styles that you want to play. If you’re unwilling to do this, stay in the wheelhouse of what your skill allows you to do. A good test is if you’re able to play the music while still focusing on God and engaging in worship. If you’re preoccupied with the chord changes and unable to truly worship, you might be out of your depth. Time to woodshed.
4. Each situation is different
New Hope didn’t become multicultural because of intention. As much as we value diversity at New Hope, we didn’t create it. In a combination of God’s providence, location, and myriad other factors, our church embodies diversity. Make every effort to ensure your church reflects the community around you, but don’t force the issue and try to be something you’re not, both individually and corporately as a church. Be who God has called you to be and do what God has called you to do. Also, don’t compare yourself to other churches. You won’t be like other churches. That’s a good thing. Do everything you can to help people connect with God when you meet to worship on Sabbath, and you’ll be headed in right direction.